The menopause is defined by the World Health Organization as the point in time of permanent cessation of menstruation due to loss of ovarian function. Clinically, the menopause is characterized by persistent amenorrhea for a period of twelve months. Laboratory findings in the menopause generally reveal low serum estradiol levels with elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels. The specific levels may vary depending on the assay used. The perimenopause, or climacteric, is defined as the period of diminishing ovarian function preceding the menopause to one year following the final menses, generally lasting between 2 and 8 years. Currently, the average age of menopause in the United States is approximately 51 years and the average life expectancy is approximately 80 years. Consistent with this, almost one half of the average woman's life is spent in the post-menopausal period.
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